In the wake of yet more cases where the police brutally misusing their powers on minorities, I had hoped to see someone in a position of power make an announcement that all law enforcers will now be expected by law to all complete Ethics Training as soon as it’s possible to do so. But no. Instead what I see on the news is a story about a support worker, who has a young man with autism under his care, get shot by the police; despite having his hands up. Words can’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to be scare of an organisation who’s job it is to protect you simply because your ethnicity or your disability could label you as someone they should target like a criminal and not someone they should protect.
I can’t be the only one who is saying this but I feel that we must all make a demand to the US government calling for all law enforcement officers to be given essential Ethics Education. And I don’t mean a few lectures on doing the right thing or a multiple choice test about equality. This Ethics Training needs to open up a dialogue that challenges all officers on key moral issues and assumptions; testing their reasoning and decision-making skills and allowing them to share their experiences and to hear first hand accounts on what happens when a misuse of power is inflicted upon a person. In the same way that officers routinely train in defensive tactics, firearms and law to better prime them for field duties, officers should prepare equally well for any ethical issues they might encounter. Respecting and communicating effectively with different cultures, looking out for vulnerable adults who may have a disability or illness so they can identify men and women with a disability such as autism and communicate effectively with them. Avoiding unnecessary misunderstandings that could escalate into deadly situations. And most importantly learning that there are many effective techniques that can apply before resorting to deadly force. To enforce the law effectively an officer needs to recognise a moral dilemma when one occurs, make an appropriate ethical decision to tackle the dilemma then demonstrate the moral courage necessary to behave with integrity. Lets face it, can we honestly say we feel confident that the police have the instincts needed to avoid misunderstandings about the people they meet out on the street. We can no longer naively expect officers to do the right thing simply because they possess the right values, and the right character. Law enforcement institutions will need to deliver this ethical training. So it does beg the question, what have they been doing so wrong up until now? These bullet points cover the fundamentals that need to be in place for us to see a radical ethical shake up in law enforcement.
- Law enforcement agencies must establish a clear code of ethical conduct, including a set of core values and mission statement. Merely establishing a code of ethical conduct is not enough
- Compulsory training to help officers understand how to.. safeguard vulnerable adults / avoid racial profiling and biased policing / positively integrate with the local communities
- Departments must also work to create systems that reward ethical conduct and punish unethical behaviour
- Openly acknowledge officers who are actively involved in promoting an ethical workforce
- Seriously address officers’ ethical concerns by thoroughly investigating any allegations, while protecting the confidentiality of those reporting such incidents
- Maintaining a working environment where ethical issues are discussed freely
- Regular reviews of the ethical training model so to maintain high standards